Last reviewed 20 September 2013

Since same-sex marriage became law in July 2013, a number of studies have been highlighting how far care homes in the UK have to go to establish equality for their older lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (OLGBT) residents, writes Christine Grey.

OLGBT care home residents in Wales

A two-year research project by Swansea University’s College of Human and Health Sciences, funded by the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research (NISCHR) Clinical Research Centre, has looked into how the sexual identities and relationships of OLGBT residents are perceived and supported in residential care in Wales, and found a widespread lack of recognition of their care needs.

The research set out to ascertain how care and nursing staff, care agency management and service providers were trying to support the sexual identities and relationships of OLGBT residents, and the attitudes and perceptions towards their needs.

Research lead Dr Paul Willis said that these environments in Wales were found to be neither adequately prepared nor sufficiently resourced to give inclusive services for this group, although care staff and management were open to developing their knowledge and skills in this area. He added: “This suggests that training on how to lead affirming discussions with older people about their sexual histories, identities and care needs to be in place for care service providers to meet their duties under the Equality Act 2010.”

Recommendations included improving inspection reporting, enhancing care home environments to better reflect OLGBT needs, strengthening direction from policy makers on support for care providers to include OLGBT residents in their practice, improving staff training, and more research.

The study is available on the Swansea University website.

Homophobic discrimination by care staff?

Meanwhile, The BBC has claimed that OLGBT residents in some UK care homes have been suffering homophobic bullying from care staff. The case of a woman who had carers praying for her because she was a lesbian was highlighted, together with a case of workers refusing to care for a resident because of her sexuality.

Earlier this year the Joseph Rowntree Foundation study Assessing Current and Future Housing and Support Options for Older LGB People also revealed a worrying number of cases of discrimination against OLGBT people in the housing and support sector.

Age UK recently set up a project, Opening Doors London, to provide information and support services for OLGBT people in the UK. Together with Stonewall Housing, the charity is working on a joint project developing a national LGBT charter mark for housing providers and other service providers working with OLGBT people.

Age UK ambassador and founder of the Lesbian and Gay Carers Network Roger Newman MBE said residential homes should be more overt with their anti-discrimination policies. “It’s no good having partial agreement, there needs to be something on the wall stating that discrimination will not occur. And residents should have to sign up to their acceptance of that.

“Simply because we are old doesn’t give us the right to be homophobic.”